Welcome NASCAR fans to my NASCAR blog. I am not a reporter. I am simply a NASCAR fan. And have been a fan since I saw my first race in 1996. I am not a sports fan. I don’t care to watch football or baseball. But I love watching racing. And fell in love with NASCAR with that first race. I made it a point to learn everything about NASCAR, including how points were given in a race. I never cared how they were doing points-wise during the race. But I kept up with how points were earned and the system made perfect sense to me. If I were handing out points, I would give more to the driver who won. The driver with the most points at the end of the season, wins the trophy. Some years the points are closer than others. And at the end of the year, drivers raced in and out of the top ten in points. Only the top ten in points get to go to the banquet at the end of the year.
In 2003 Matt Kenseth collected the most points and was declared the Champion despite having only one win. At the last race of the year Terry Labonte raced into the top ten and Kurt Busch fell out of the top ten. And it was exciting watching Matt stay in the top ten every race and keep the points lead. Things changed after that 2003 season. And as a relatively long time and definitely Passionate fan, I don’t think the change was good for NASCAR.
In 2004, it was no longer Winston Cup, but Nextel Cup. And later became Sprint Cup. Despite the fact that the trophy was no longer a cup. And NASCAR fans were no longer good enough. More fans needed to be NASCAR fans. Football fans needed to be NASCAR fans. (I really have no idea what Brian’s thinking was. I just interpreted what he did in my own way.) NASCAR needed to have a playoff because all other sports have a playoff. And having a playoff was the only reason anyone watched sports to begin with.
So The Chase was born. The first 26 races were the “regular” season, where drivers raced to get into the chase. The last ten races were the chase where the best driver in those ten races was crowned Champion. Even if he didn’t have the most points in the season. Even if he didn’t have the most wins. It gave the tenth place team a chance to win it all. (My feelings were to ask why crowning a champion based on ten races and giving someone else a chance to win it all would be exciting.)
The first year Kurt Busch was crowned Champion. He was the driver the previous year who fell out of the top ten in that last race of the year. He had a good ten races and was champion. I thought, what a stupid way to crown a champion! Letting a tenth place team win. The next year Tony Stewart was champion. And I thought, what a stupid way to crown a champion – letting a driver who does good in the second half of the season win. And then came Jimmie Johnson. He figured out how to do well in the last ten races. He and crew chief, Chad Knous spend the first 26 races trying things out for the ten chase races. And he has won every championship since 2006.
Now I have to ask why this would be exciting. And I can’t think of why crowning a champion based on ten races would be more exciting than crowning a champion because he was the best all year.
Apparently, other fans felt the same way. The long time fans watched that first year. And thought it was stupid. NASCAR fans don’t want NASCAR to be like other sports. We were quite happy being a unique sport. This is racing, not stick and ball, after all. Television ratings have been going down since 2005 when the chase was now the way a champion was selected. And the ratings have been going down during those last chase races. NASCAR saw the ratings going down. They saw tracks not selling out any more for races. So they tweaked the chase. That didn’t help. Year after year it got worse and worse. The long time NASCAR fans were no longer watching. And the new fans aren’t NASCAR fans.
Now they want to keep the chase, but implement a new point system. The winner gets 43 points and last place gets 1 point. To make it easier for the fans to conceive how points are given. Only, the long time fans already liked the old points system. We all knew how they were given and were comfortable with it. No one had to explain to us how it went. We made a point of finding out because we were fans.
In NASCAR’s effort to gain more fans, they have forgotten the fans that they once had. By manufacturing excitement. By deciding the last ten races needed to be more exciting than the rest of the season. By not letting the point leader actually win the championship. By making things easier for new fans, who aren’t going to stick around because NASCAR isn’t their Passion. Football fans call NASCAR the “roundy-rounds”. And I have to wonder why we need these fans watching instead of all the fans that were watching before the chase started.
My take on all this? I say put NASCAR back the way it was. It was well received the way it was. Those not in a playoff go home. Not so with NASCAR. All 43 drivers are still racing all the races. Except only 12 of them count. We are told who is in and who is out, after the Daytona 500, the first race of the year! The Daytona 500 used to be the Super Bowl of NASCAR. With the chase, I have to wonder what they are “chasing”. Certainly not to be in the Super Bowl. That was the first race.
What should NASCAR do? Get back to what NASCAR fans liked to begin with. What made the sport the best sport. Why NASCAR became so popular to begin with. Only give a lot more points for winning. That way Matt Kenseth can’t be champion with only one win. The chase is not working. It may be bringing in some fans. But it is chasing away the fans they already had. And shouldn’t those fans be more important than possible new fans? The system wasn’t broken when Brian tried to “fix” it. I say put it back so the long time fans can be Passionate again. Back to racing instead of hype. Dump the manufactured excitement and let us watch 43 drivers racing again. NASCAR is exciting. Racing has always been exciting. You can’t MAKE it so. It just is.
Brought to you by Sheila Hawley. I love NASCAR.